NONITO Donaire Jr. was caught off guard by the last-minute withdrawal of South African Zolanie Tete in their World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) super-bantamweight title fight set Sunday (Manila time) at the Cajundome in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Tete, owner of the World Boxing Organization (WBO) version of the 122-lbs. belt, injured his right shoulder in training, prompting him to back out of the scheduled semifinal series featuring the world’s top super-bantamweight fighters.
In his place, American Stephon Young, the no. 5 contender of the World Boxing Association (WBA), has stepped in to fight Donaire.
Naturally, Donaire, the reigning WBA champion, felt upset about the last-minute development, which he only learned just two hours before the scheduled press conference for the fight card.
“My family sacrificed, I sacrificed, I’m on weight. I’ve been training, and in the end, I am not responsible for another man’s injury,” he said.
Donaire though understands Tete’s situation and nonetheless vowed to climb the ring against Young with the same mind set of retaining his title.
“I’m going in there against Stephon Young and I’m going to do what I came here to do in front of the Lafayette fans, my friends and family … take my titles to the finals,” added the ‘Filipino Flash,’ who holds a record of 39-5, with 25 KOs.
Young (18-1, with 7 KOs) was scheduled to fight in the undercard against Daniel Lozano. But in a blink of an eye, he’ll now be fighting for a world title.
“I was walking in circles for 10 minutes, eyes full of tears of joy. I felt amazing with the news,” he said. “It’s a real dream come true to be in this position.”
“I feel I will handle the big stage quite well, and I rate my chances very, very good.”
The winner of the Donaire-Young semifinal fight will fight the survivor of the Naoya Inoue-Emmanuel Rodriguez match for the International Boxing Federation (IBF) championship.
Tournament chief Kalle Sauerland expressed regret that Tete won’t be able to fight Donaire.
“It is very, very unfortunate for Tete, particularly after such a strong belief in going all the way and win the Ali Trophy,” he said about the overall winner of the series.
“Fortunately, we are prepared for such eventualities and the tournament will move forward with our reserve fighter Stephon Young facing Nonito Donaire in the semifinal in Lafayette this weekend.”